07 February 2010

Youth in Revolt

Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Jonathan B. Wright
Writer: Gustin Nash (screenplay), C.D Payne (novel)

Director: Miguel Arteta

Release: 08 January 2010

Dimension Films, 90 mins., Rated R

That was...odd.

C.D. Payne's beloved book finally hits the big screen in a movie adaptation that is, for the most part, quite good, but Cera's own performance actually ends up hurting the film than it does helping it, which is weird considering how passionate he was about the project. This is a Michael Cera movie all the way, and if you, like me, are starting to get way too overly annoyed by Cera's natural awkwardness and stammering, Youth in Revolt will drive you absolutely bonkers. But on the plus side, the story does offer Cera an opportunity to branch out and not be that awkward stammering grievance. Now outside of Cera, the movie is generally great. There's plenty of really bizarre, over-the-top things that happen, such as two drawn big figures locked in a sex position coming to life and floating in the air as Cera watches in bewilderment; or the cool but out-of-place animation that accompanies the title sequence.

Nick Twisp (Cera), 16-year old outcast virgin, goes on vacation with his dysfunctional Ma (Smart) and her boyfriend (Galifianakis), and meets Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday), a gal at the peak of her sexuality. Nick and Sheeni grow a affection for each other, but any romantic prospects is demolitioned with Sheeni's ex-boyfriend, do-gooder Trent (Wright) still hanging around campus. Feeling that Sheeni wants a dangerous man - basically his complete opposite - Nick creates a separate persona, modeled after Sheeni's fantasy dude, the cigarette-smoking Francois Dillinger (Cera), to win her affections. Much chaos ensues, police become involved, a French school gets invaded, and the prospect of Nick losing his virginity and getting the girl of his dreams is going bye-bye rather quickly...

Youth in Revolt is a hard type of film to comment on. Its biggest strength is the screenplay, which is a brilliant adaptation of the book (the few 40 or so pages I read) complete with funny gags, hilarious but highly improbable situations that are fun to watch, hints of Diablo Cody-esque dialogue, and a generally interesting story (read: the creating of another persona to win a gal's heart; haven't heard that one before...). A great cast of supporting characters also helps immensely. Portia Doubleday as Sheeni is phenomenal, sporting off her sexuality but at the same time not being a one-dimensional object of desire, but instead having her own personality, her own aspirations. Great casting choice. Jean Smart (24) is underused, but her scenes are great, if not a little depressing; Zack Galifianakis, much praised after The Hangover, is only around for a small period of running time, but he makes every frame count. Fred Willard (American Wedding and a bagillion other comedies) gets stoned out of his mind, and Steve Buscemi basically comes in and out for a paycheck. At least he got to mack out with a attractive 20-something gal.

But the flick gets burned by lead Michael Cera. Is it really too much to ask for him to try something new with the 'socially awkward kid' role? With each subsequent movie, try some new technique out? On the plus side, it was a blast watching Cera as Francois Dillinger, who constantly berates Nick, wears ridiculous outfits, and resorts to extreme measures to get out of situations. If it wasn't for Francois Dillinger, I doubt I'd enjoy the film as much.

The movie goes in all sorts of (surprising) directions. I had no idea Nick was going to get into as much trouble as he did. I had no idea he had the balls to pull off a lot of the stunts that he did. And I had no idea of the freakish-but-cool animated shots that show up here and there. The performances were great - Cera still needs to evolve or else he's truly a goner, and the script was very well written. All in all, I'd recommend Youth in Revolt. It's at least quite memorable.

No comments: